Identifying and implementing prevention programmes for childhood mental health problems


Professor Michael Sawyer, Research and Evaluation Unit, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, North Adelaide, SA 5006, Australia. Fax: +61 88161 6906; email:


Abstract:  A substantial number of children and adolescents in Australia have mental health problems. This review provides guidance to service providers for selecting prevention programmes designed to reduce mental health problems experienced by children. It addresses three issues. First, it highlights the importance of utilising programmes that focus on risk and protective factors which have a causal relationship with mental health problems. Second, it describes approaches that can be used to assess the quality of programme evaluations, and identifies common characteristics of more effective programmes. Finally, it identifies general factors which influence the uptake of innovations, such as new prevention programmes, in health services. These features include, for example, compatibility with potential providers’ values, norms and perceived needs, and some flexibility which allows potential providers to adapt programmes to suit their specific needs and context. Addressing these general issues is important to maximise the uptake of effective new prevention programmes.